A Look at the Portuguese World


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The terraces

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The first settlers helped create a new landscape on the slopes of Madeira.

The mountain dominates the landscape of the island. It has always been a challenge for the early settlers since the discovery of Madeira to open paths in the lush landscape. The first settlers torn the deep gorges with their own hands and rudimentary utensils for survival. The collective effort created the terraces, which are nothing more than rock walls that served to stabilize the soil to plant the first crops. The rocks that underlie the slopes were cut and slid down the mountain, to the steep cliffs which were fitted to contain the land. Animal traction was of little used because of the so rugged terrain that prevented the passage of animals; everything was loaded on the back, although in some parts of the island, transport could be made by cows and mules.
Agriculture was the main activity of the early pioneers who came to Madeira. Wheat was among the first crops to thrive in this fertile soil, a farming of great importance for the people who produced it for their own subsistence. Later the sugar cane streamlined the island economy to the point that Madeira has been one of the largest exporters of saccharine production in Europe. A monopoly that disappeared with the appearance of sugar produced in Brazil and Guinea in the seventeenth century. The vine, one of other cultures introduce had not the same fatal fate. Due to an essentially semi-tropical climate, the wine produced on the island has become the most important product of exploitation by their unique qualities, a reputation beyond the borders that lasts until today. Now days, the landscape has suffer undergoing changes derived from the demographic pressure that enabled a rampant urban growth and the abandonment of agriculture, however much at the expense of very small stubborn farmers attached to their land, one can still glimpses the pergolas and other vegetables cultures that adorn the slopes of the mountain and are a tourist attraction of the region.



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